The five weirdest things in the Daily Mail's profile of Michael Gove


Jan Moir's profile of Michael Gove, in today's Daily Mail, is a work of… well, it's Jan Moir's profile of Michael Gove in today's Daily Mail. Here are the five weirdest passages:

1) The I-can't-tell-if-she's-being-cutting-or-if-she-actually-thinks-it sycophancy:

It makes the boyish and bespectacled Gove seem rather more interesting that your average grey politician, even one who today is wearing what he describes as a ‘deliberately dull’ tie to avoid accusations of ‘peacockery’. Hilarious.

2) The random Molesworth quote:

Gove says his lack of leadership ambitions is a liberation, one that sets him free to concentrate on the job in hand, the perilous task that consumes him every day: the overhaul of the failing education system in this country. And it desperately needs it, as any fule kno.

3) The idea that a government minister doing his job deserves as much coverage as a government minister not doing his job:

Today he feels vindicated, but wryly notes that had the judgment gone the other way, it would have dominated the news agenda on the BBC and other Left-wing media outlets all day. ‘Ohhh, it would have been all “GCSE fiasco!”, I think. It is impossible to avoid the word fiasco these days.’ In the end, the triumph was barely mentioned. The focus is always on what Gove gets wrong, not on what he gets right.

4) Gove was that guy you hated in University:

When he first went to Oxford, he amazed everyone by wearing a three-piece tweed suit to lectures.


An old edition of Cherwell, the Oxford student newspaper, contains details of a purported five-in-a-bed romp in London and — more embarrassments — claims that Gove‘s nickname was Donkey because of certain physical attributes. The Education Minister waves this saucy notion away.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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How austere will Philip Hammond be?

The Chancellor must choose between softening or abandoning George Osborne's approach in his Autumn Statement. 

After becoming Chancellor, Philip Hammond was swift to confirm that George Osborne's budget surplus target would be abandoned. The move was hailed by some as the beginning of a new era of fiscal policy - but it was more modest than it appeared. Rather than a statement of principle, the abandonment of the 2019-20 target was merely an acceptance of reality. In the absence of additional spending cuts or tax rises, it would inevitably be missed (as Osborne himself recognised following the EU referendum). The decision did not represent, as some suggested, "the end of austerity".

Ahead of his first Autumn Statement on 23 November, the defining choice facing Hammond is whether to make a more radical break. As a new Resolution Foundation report notes, the Chancellor could either delay the surplus target (the conservative option) or embrace an alternative goal. Were he to seek a current budget suplus, rather than an overall one (as Labour pledged at the last general election), Hammond would avoid the need for further austerity and give himself up to £17bn of headroom. This would allow him to borrow for investment and to provide support for the "just managing" families (as Theresa May calls them) who will be squeezed by the continuing benefits freeze.

Alternatively, should Hammond merely delay Osborne's surplus target by a year (to 2020-21), he would be forced to impose an additional £9bn of tax rises or spending cuts. Were he to reject any further fiscal tightening, a surplus would not be achieved until 2023-24 - too late to be politically relevant. 

The most logical option, as the Resolution Foundation concludes, is for Hammond to target a current surplus. But since entering office, both he and May have emphasised their continuing commitment to fiscal conservatism ("He talks about austerity – I call it living within our means," the latter told Jeremy Corbyn at her first PMQs). For Hammond to abandon the goal of the UK's first budget surplus since 2001-02 would be a defining moment. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.